In Pennsylvania all wine and liquor sales are controlled by state run stores. Now, one could argue that this makes them clearly “locally owned” but only if one trusted the Commonwealth to be responsibly reinvesting that money in our local economy. Big if.
Although most wine is only available at the state stores, you can buy wine directly from the vintner in Pennsylvania and this seemed like a logical solution to my local wine purchasing dilemma. Can’t get more local than buying wine from the guy who grew the grapes and stomped them himself (more or less). The only problem is that most of the PA wines that we’ve experienced are clingingly sweet. If you like dessert wine, they’ve got you covered. Even most “semi-dry” wines lean heavily towards syrup.
To be fair, my survey of PA wine only encompasses the three vineyards truly local – within five miles. So on Valentine’s Day, my love and I ventured further afield, literally, to Brogue. After 25 minutes of driving through classic Pennsyltucky countryside – hills and fields, broken up by the occasional drive directly through some poor farmer’s barnyard (the state was serious about claiming right-of-way back when these roads were paved), we found Allegro Winery.
Having spent countless hours in wineries in Virginia, it must be said that the vineyard was not the picturesque spot we’ve come to expect. They did have a very nice small outdoor pavilion/deck and I’m certain the place would be much prettier some time other than the dregs of winter. We were undeterred and headed in to the tasting room.
Inside we discovered a classic tasting room with lots of wood, barrels and a slate-topped tasting bar. Wine lined the walls and we were immediately greeted by the sommelier (love that word – plus it’s my dream job ….some day). He offered us an extensive list of wines, probably near thirty. On one paper the typical sweet wines were listed, but on the other was a list of dry wine – mostly reds. For a $3 tasting fee, we were told to choose seven wines to taste. In the end the sommelier actually let us taste more than our original seven, even joining us for one, which was novel. He was great company, informative, friendly, and happy to talk about wine and the local market.
The vineyard sells plenty of sweet wine and the one I sipped, tasted exactly as if I had picked a grape off the vine and bit in to it. But their dry reds were fabulous. We even went home with a $36 bottle of reserve, which is more than we’ve ever paid for a bottle of wine (yes, I know we’re cheap). It pleases me to no end that the most expensive bottle of wine I’ve ever purchased came from a local vineyard!
We will keep searching for excellent local wines. It’s a tough assignment, but one I’m willing to endure in the name of journalism.
We haven’t had to travel far for local beer. It turned up at just about the same time I started this little project in the form of GunpowderFalls Brewing, opening less than a half mile from our home. They serve delicious German style beers. Small craft breweries and boutique wineries seem to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts lately proving yet again, that the best things in life are local!